The last summer of Joy’s life, we spent a lot of time at Badger Creek, BYU Idaho’s Outdoor Learning Facility.

It’s a 250 acre ranch in Tetonia.

I always felt great there because it felt safe. Not like the other places in Targhee where I felt like bears were watching me waiting to pounce on my family. Too scary. Even though we’ve seen moose at Badger, I never felt really scared there.

We would hike and we got to know the staff and the couple who took over running the ranch for awhile became the ministering angels who watched over us during those very difficult weeks right after Joy went Home.

We went over there today.

View From Badger Creek Ranch.

View From Badger Creek Ranch.

It’s different.

I mean, of course it’s different. Because I believe that summer we were there God picked the people there who would help us and make it special for us. Maybe that’s egocentric, but I really feel that way. When we went today it felt kind of more–institutionalized.

A staff worker on the trail who looked very much like a retired public school teacher kept giving us disapproving looks and then jumped at the chance to tell us if we went anywhere near the creek we would need a waiver.

A waiver? To go anywhere near the creek? I almost laughed.

And then I wondered if we had already been deemed disorderly because we had dared cross the bridge to the lodge without a waiver. (I actually understand about liability and all that, but when we used to go to Badger Creek, I guess they just expected people to have common sense.  Or maybe it was a sense of trust. I guess it’s too popular for simple trust now.)

Anyway, it was kind of sad to us. We all felt a little…melancholy.

It was almost as if this woman had snuffed the Joy right out of Badger Creek. But, we tried to rally and my sons rebelled against the dictates of the staff member by brazenly walking back toward the car across the bridge with a devil may care attitude and even haphazardly threw rocks into the creek. I thought we might get thrown out on our way out.

I was a bit melancholy, too, until I quit being hurt by the woman’s rudeness and instead focused on how truly blessed we were to be regulars at Badger Creek during it’s most perfect moments. If it had been the way it felt today, we would never have had those many wonderful, beautiful, spiritual experiences.

Yes, they are making more money now. Yes, it is probably much more professional. Yes, I suppose it is good they have more programs.

Wild

Wild

But, wow. It made me think carefully about how important it is to remember that some things should be–well–a little wild. Like nature.

And maybe Badger Creek.

I watched my kids today, falling and tripping as they climbed the hills and picked up dirt and rocks. I watched how their little spirits nearly jumped out of their bodies for joy at being able to dare and fall and scrape and bruise and blister.

I watched Daniel’s soul grow by leaps and bounds today as he stumbled and landed on his bottom in the water of the pond when he tried to throw too-heavy rocks.

I watched confidence explode in Noah as he tripped over some sagebrush and plopped right on the dusty, prickly, rocky surface.

I watched my son as he dealt with the deep feelings he had of Joy’s death because he was able to sit on a rock and just look at the blue. In silence. No iThings. No earbuds. Nothing but the sound of water and wind and trees and sky and birds. And Heaven.

I watched my daughter retracing her steps from a hundred hikes of the past, finding comfort in the familiar landscape.

I am so glad we were alone then.

Joy's Flowers

Joy’s Flowers

It was holy time to reflect. I cried when I saw Joy’s wildflowers–growing in the same place they were when she skipped down the trail and I felt, perhaps foolishly, that those flowers were there because they remembered my daughter–that they were a memorial.

I would like to say that I smiled and felt true happiness, but I felt that stabbing, painful happiness and my eyes were wet. I held back most of the sobbings of my heart. They weren’t really sad sobbings–just stabbing.

Just being there it felt like the land and the plants and the water and the trees were whispering her name and were happy to see me to remind me of her beautiful little life.

Sacred ground.

I looked up at the darkening sky and decided it was almost time to go, but not before looking up at the hill where I saw the storm come in years before and knew something terrible was going to happen and that God would be with me.

Holy ground.

We can never stay too long there anymore. Too much going on–the ranch isn’t as quiet as it used to be.

Remembering Joy At The Pond

Remembering Joy At The Pond

But, I am so very, very grateful for the time I had today when my Father’s presence turned a dusty old ranch into a temple just for me and my little family.

And I am glad it’s still there. Even with the waivers.